Murder detectives last night wound up their search at a remote wood and pond in a small Wiltshire village – but said it would be weeks before forensic tests on what they found are known.
Police investigating the murder of Swindon office worker Sian O'Callaghan renewed appeals for information about the area in Ramsbury, where her boots were found, and other items found nearby.
Now detectives face the task of working out whether a pile of clothes buried in the woods nearby are linked to Sian's murder, or the disappearance of any other women from the Swindon and Wiltshire area over the past decade or more.
Officers found the boots Sian was wearing on the night she disappeared in March 2011 floating in the pond last week.
They speculated that the spot between Swindon and Marlborough could have been the place where Sian was killed by the taxi driver, Christopher Halliwell, or it was the spot where he merely dumped her boots as he tried to dispose of evidence.
Halliwell is serving life for Sian's murder, but the find has renewed speculation that he may be responsible for the disappearances of more women in Swindon. He has never been charged with the murder of Becky Godden-Edwards, despite leading police to the spot in Gloucestershire where he dumped her body back in 2003, after a police procedural bungle.
At Ramsbury, police went as far as draining the pond of water and sifting through the silt at the bottom with their fingertips, but are understood to have discovered nothing else of importance.
They also conducted fingertip searches of the woodland around the pond, and unearthed a pile of clothes that had been buried nearby, as well as a broken shotgun.
The police chief newly-assigned to the Halliwell investigations said he was keeping 'an open mind' about the find, revealing it amounted to what could be the fragments of as many as 60 different items of clothing.
Detective Chief Inspector Sean Memory said while he found it "very strange" that someone would go to the lengths of burying clothes in a remote wood, it could be simply flytipping and be completely unconnected with the investigation. Forensic investigators will now try to work their way through the clothing, and face the task of not only piecing together what items they are, but also try to find any traces of DNA evidence that might provide a clue to who they belonged to.
As well as the 60 items found buried in the woods, a "chunky-knit" cardigan was also found closer to the pond – again police are keen to know whether this had been innocently dumped or left there, or its origins are more sinister.
A force spokesman said: "The forensics work on the items discovered there is very complicated and will take a number of weeks at least."
"All of the items found, including Sian's boots, shotgun, chunky knit cardigan and pile of 60 items of material or clothes, have been sent for forensic analysis. This is likely to take several weeks.